RENEW’s micro finance project reaches out to rural women

Savings: It’s the 13th day of the month and it’s the day women in the villages of Pang and Bemji of Nub Chutoe valley come together in a nearby shop with the little money they have saved from selling farm produces.

Keza Dekar, 27, from Pang is one of them. She has walked for 30 minutes from her house with Nu 1,000.

Like other women in the locality, she has come to deposit the money she earned in a month from selling chillies and pepper to Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) officials, who visit the village once a month, to collect money from members of their micro finance project.

Keza has deposited Nu 10,000 as of today, since the inception of the micro finance project scheme in January 2013. But she has also withdrawn about Nu 6,000 till now. As a single mother of two, she withdraws money whenever she has to buy school uniforms, shoes and other necessities for her children.

She said the highest she managed to deposit in a single day was Nu 1,200. “It was in Autumn when I sold vegetables,” Keza said. “In the summer months, it was difficult to even deposit Nu 100.”

Sangay Lham, 28, from Bemji, has come with Nu 150.

The single mother of one said she managed to deposit Nu 10,000 till now from the sale of farm produces. “But I only have Nu 2,000, as I had to take out the money every time we had to buy some edibles at home.”

Sangay Lham is also applying for a loan of Nu 20,000 from the scheme. She wants to renovate her two-storey traditional house. She plans to buy cement.

“It is much easier to avail loans from here. It saves our time and money,” she said. “Repayment is also much more convenient here, as we don’t have to go all the way to Trongsa.”

Keza Dem, 39, joined the project in April this year. She deposited Nu 1,000 on December 13. She said she withdrew from the scheme in 2013 when officials made it mandatory for individuals to deposit money. “But now they made it flexible and anyone can make deposits as long as we send our deposit book,” she said.

Keza Dema added that she saved the money she earned from dancing at an archery match. “My family can use this money whenever we need it.”

Sonam Lham, 43, has saved Nu 7,130 but she withdrew Nu 6,000. “My son-in-law wants to repay his loan with this money,” she said. “He promised to work and replace my money.”

The mother of six said RENEW’s scheme has inculcated some savings habit among the local women. “All women now have savings and they can withdraw money whenever they need it,” Sonam Lham said.

She said the women talk among themselves and when some are able to save more money, others get encouraged. Women said the scheme encourages them to save since the women who do not have much to save feel embarrassed.

Meanwhile, a closer look at how the transaction was made revealed that it was a difficult job for the two RENEW officials, who had come from Trongsa in a taxi.

Since most of the women did not know how to read and write, they did not know their total deposits and how much they withdrew.

A woman, who inadvertently handed in the account book of her aunt, made a fuss when the balance didn’t tally. It took few minutes for her to realise that it was the wrong book.

Tashi Dema

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